Frontier vs. Noritsu Film Scan Comparisons - Radian Photography

For Photographers, Radian Photography

Frontier vs. Noritsu Film Scan Comparisons

This story starts when I asked a film photographer friend what she used to scan her images, and was surprised to learn that she used a different type of scanner than I did. Obviously, we had to do a Frontier vs. Noritsu film scan comparison immediately to see what our work looks like in both formats.

Before we go any further, we will go ahead and let you know that our work is scanned on the Noritsu scanner and has been for years. In 2018, I visited the FIND Lab in Utah and got to see some negatives scanned on both the Noritsu and Frontier scanners. For all of the reasons that Richard Photo Lab so eloquently wrote about here, we have chosen to use the Noritsu scanner, primarily for its consistent scans. So not only were we surprised to learn that our friend, Amanda, preferred the Frontier, but we decided we’d poll others on Instagram to see what they were using. Here are the results:

Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. I used three different accounts to vote for the Noritsu.

Anyway, SHOCKING! I was so surprised to learn that most of the film and hybrid photographers I know and love use the Frontier scanner. Curiosity spiked, I decided to ask our film lab to rescan some recent images on the Frontier scanner so I could see how our work looked on each. Would I like my images from the Frontier more? Would others?

A few notes on these:

  • We chose one outdoor session and one indoor session to scan so that we could see how the Noritsu and Frontier performed in both of those settings.
  • I always touch up my film scans a liiiittle bit, so I decided to do a comparison between both untouched scans straight from the lab AND scans edited by me so that we could truly see what a final product might look like.
  • I then polled Instagram again to find out which the general public LIKED more (not which one they thought was Frontier vs. Noritsu). I was curious to know if there was a strong preference either way.
  • I will share results of polls with you, but wanted to note that in general, there was a strong public preference for Frontier scans when photos were captured outdoors and a mixed preference when photos were captured indoors — on some images, Frontier won, and on others, Noritsu won.
  • We didn’t poll on ALL of the scans, so I’m including a few comparisons here that didn’t get judged by the Internet yet!

Edited Scans: Noritsu on Left, Frontier on Right

Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Frontier
Frontier vs. Noritsu Film scan test
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Frontier
Frontier vs. Noritsu Film scan test
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Frontier
Frontier vs. Noritsu Film scan test
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Frontier
Frontier vs. Noritsu Film scan test
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Frontier
Frontier vs. Noritsu Film scan test

Straight Scans: Frontier on Left, Noritsu on Right

Preference for Frontier
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Noritsu
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Noritsu
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Frontier
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test
Preference for Frontier
Frontier vs. Noritsu film scanner test

The Verdict

What the internet thought:

We shared 10 scan comparisons on our stories, and Instagram friends preferred Frontier 8 times and Noritsu 2 times.

What we thought:

Surprisingly, our Frontier vs Noritsu comparison left us a little confused. Honestly, we DO like some of our images better when scanned on the Frontier!

What we are going to do about it:

This might shock you to learn, but we’re sticking with the Noritsu for a few reasons:

  • Faster turnaround times: Frontier scans from our lab take an average of two days longer to complete because Noritsu machines are newer technology and faster at their job. We usually ship out film 1-2 business days after we finish a session or event (i.e. if we do the session on a Friday or Saturday, we’ll ship out on Monday or Tuesday). The film usually makes it to our lab in 2 business days (so if we ship out on Thursday or Friday, it likely won’t arrive until the following week). Turnaround times from the lab can depend on the season (for example, spring and fall are generally busier seasons for photography, so scans will take longer because they have more orders to work on during that time), but in general, we receive our film back in 4-7 business days after our lab receives it. From there, it’s time for us to edit and match our digital work to the film! We generally give ourselves 7-10 business days to complete this (again, dependent on season and how many other projects are on our desks at that time). So at this point, we’re looking at a 3-4 week turnaround for you, which is generally what we tell clients to expect. Two business days doesn’t seem like a lot to tack onto that, except…
  • Less costly: Because our film techs are using newer technology with the Noritsu, they scan more images more consistently per hour, costing us (and you) less money. On average, Frontier scans cost +$2/roll.
  • Our Custom PAC: We have a custom color profile set up with our lab, so we’re able to send these film comparisons to them directly and let them know what exactly we preferred about the Frontier scans so that they can adjust our color preferences. Noritsu technology allows more fine tuning of editing preferences before film scans are sent to us, which means we get the best of both worlds: we can have images scanned more to our preferences delivered to our inbox and spend less time on editing them before sending them to you!

Overall, this was SUCH a fun experiment, and one I definitely wish I had done sooner! Even with the slight differences in color, contrast, and shadows, it was awesome to learn more about our (and your!) preferences and continue to improve upon our work overall. We are excited about where this new knowledge will take us and hope that this process was as fun and informative for you as it was for us!

We’re curious: what are your opinions? Frontier vs. Noritsu? Leave us a comment below to let us know, or let’s chat – send us a message at hello@radianphotography.com!

Frontier vs. Noritsu film scan comparison


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